Five Signs That Your Employee Experience is Toxic

Employee Satisfaction Surveys | Voice of the Employee | Employee Experience

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Trusted Experience Management Partners

In a podcast earlier this year Freakonomics Radio, hosted by economist and author Stephen J. Dubner, asked listeners for their thoughts on workplace morale. Software engineer, Damon Beaven, whose work has taken him inside a variety of different organizations, introduced Freakonomics to the “Dilbert Index.” “I look for the number of Dilbert comics,” says Beaven, “and that seems to be inversely proportional to the level of morale. A lot of Dilbert comics seem to be like a passive aggressive way of an employee complaining.”

Of course, we recommend using Voice of the Employee to find out how managers can take action to improve engagement. However, Beaven is onto something. You very likely don’t need a survey to tell you if your employees are miserable. The following is a list of five signs that your employee experience is toxic:

1. New hires are not coming from employee recommendations.

If your employees like working for you, they will happily recommend you as an employer. If you’re struggling to recruit for positions, it could be a sign that there is something wrong with your work environment.

2. Employees take a high number of sick days.

Keep an eye out for an uptick in sick days and absenteeism. Whether disengaged employees are more likely to play hooky or the additional stress of working in a disengaging environment is actually making workers ill; what we know is that sick days are correlated with employee engagement.

3. There's a lack of friendships at work.

Gallup reports in The Economics of Wellbeing that “people who have high-quality friendships on the job are seven times as likely to be engaged in their work.” If you notice a lack of friendly activities within your organization, this could be indicative of a problem with your culture. Engaging work environments nurture and encourage social wellbeing.

4. You can see terrible customer policies.

Are your policies on customer protocols and procedures complex, tedious, and unfriendly? Then it’s likely your employees aren’t very engaged. Our research has shown that customer-centric cultures have six times the number of Fully Engaged employees than company focused organizations.

5. You notice a lack of positive customer feedback.

When people love their work they go out of their way to make customers happy. If you can’t remember the last time you heard a story about an employee doing something special for a customer then assume you have an engagement problem.


Take a look around. If your organization is exhibiting these signs you can safely assume that your customers are less than delighted as well. Employee disengagement has a way of effortlessly ruining the customer experience.

~Janessa Lantz

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Topic: Employee Experience

Posted on 07-24-2012